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Hasraf Dulull, director of space set sci-fi’s The Beyond and 2036 Origin Unknown, writes about his new filmmaking masterclass series Science Fiction Filmmaking 101 available on Vimeo now and why he put it together.
It was around March 2019. I was in LA pitching projects to various studios in Hollywood. In the evenings I would catch up with friends and other filmmakers I knew.
Every pitch or general meeting I had, I would get asked the same question in the form of – “How did I make my sci-fi feature films feel so expensive and high end – yet done for a fraction of a cost?” I would proceed to explain in detail and most of it reflected to just having a smart production workflow and an out of the box approach to production yet being aware of all the stages required to make a film.
I continued sharing my process in conversations with friends, fellow filmmakers and executive meetings. Everyone would instantly react impressed and bedazzled at the same time, before telling me that this knowledge is golden and should be taught in film schools today. I was a little surprised by that, but when I did some research online looking at the current filmmaking masterclasses out there (some of them being so overpriced for what they are!), I found that there wasn’t anything like how I was breaking down my filmmaking process taught online or in any filmmaking training out there.
One of the things I always ensure happens on all my projects is I am constantly recording tons of behind the scenes work on my phone as well as hiring a person or unit to be solely recording behind the scenes material. Most of the time, only 20 per cent of that material along with specific PR photography is used during the marketing of the film. So, I had a huge treasure trove (hard drives!) of on set behind the scenes from my two feature film projects.
I also had tons of backups of the production server for both movies which contained rough cuts, test sequences, storyboards, VFX render passes, paperwork, budgets and schedules and tons more. I mean – I really do keep everything.
Then, one morning in the shower – a light bulb flashed in my head!
Science Fiction Filmmaking 101
In between prepping for my next feature film and tons of pitches on projects, I decided to make a masterclass to reveal in raw detail how I did it. I have always found the best masterclasses or training to be done by those who share recent experiences as apposed to an academic approach.
My aim was to make this accessible for anyone, whether you are an existing or aspiring filmmaker or just someone interested in ones perspective of producing feature films in the genre of sci-fi (although this is also applicable to any genre too). So, I most definitely didn’t want this to be a technical masterclass on how to use cameras, or a step by step on how to do visual effects. There are tons of classes and tutorials out there for those things.
I didn’t want to be talking to the camera and audience delivering some lectures. So instead, I created the masterclass in a way that uses all the behind the scenes material and actual raw production content as solely the visuals and then my voice talking through the process in a personal way as the audio.
I went with this approach in order to make the audience feel like they are a fly on a wall. This is as I go through my process as a filmmaker in all the various stages from script breakdown, to pre-production to production on set, to using visual effects smartly right though to marketing and distribution of a film.
Lastly, I wanted this to be easy to pick up and enjoyable to watch without the feeling of time commitment. Therefore, I made all 17 entries no longer than 10 mins each and capable of being seen in any order. Think of them like bite-sized episodes full of raw experience and knowledge of making high concept sci-fi feature films.
Below is the full list of the episodes in the masterclass.
Breaking Down the Script
Collaborating with the 1st AD & Cinematographer
Schedule & Budget Tracking
Working with Practical Models
Set Build Approach to Production and Design
Casting & Working with Actors
Creating Digital Bodies / Costumes
Location Approach to Production Design
Shooting for VFX
Coverage for Editorial
Utilising VFX Smartly
Legals & Paperwork